The Governor Of New York Is The Latest Public Official To Target Vapes

In the wake of hundreds of respiratory illnesses throughout the country, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has warned against the use of vape products.

The Vape Outbreaks

Throughout 33 states, over 450 cases of lung issues have occurred, and CDC investigators are trying to pin down exactly what’s happening. The most common thread between the cases is the fact that they all vape. Investigations into the effects of vaping on the lungs continue to uncover more information, but medical officials report they know very little. The Department of Health in New York is pursuing a possible lead based on an unusually high levels of vitamin E that has occurred in 38 of these cases. They admit that there’s no clear understanding of how this increase in vitamin E could affect people, but they don’t want to miss any details while trying to find out the cause of this outbreak.

To Vape Or Not To Vape

Due to uncertainty of cause, Gov. Cuomo and the NY health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker are both urging New Yorkers to avoid vaping altogether. It could be the case that a specific brand of vape is creating the issue, or it could be endemic to the process of vaping. Until more research can be completed, medical officials suggest erring on the side of caution and avoiding vaping completely.

The investigation hinges on the patients disclosing information reliably and truthfully. Often, they report using multiple brands of vape or e-cigarette as well as multiple brands of e-liquid. These types of variations muddy the waters and increase the difficulty of pinpointing the cause. Also, because vaping marijuana has become more popular, patients in states where cannabis is still illegal are reticent to relay all the details for fear of legal repercussions. The history and trajectory of e-cigarettes help reveal some of the reasons we may be underprepared for a vaping related health crisis.

Vaping: A History

The first patent mentioning an electronic cigarette dates back to the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the turn of the millennia that vaping started its rapid expansion. Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, created the prototype for what would be the first commercially successful e-cigarette available. Around 2006-2008, e-cigarettes were introduced into the European and North American markets, but sale and possession were swiftly curtailed, if not banned, in many countries before 2010.

In 2011, the FDA decides to allow the sale as e-cigarettes, but regulates them like cigarettes. That same year, studies by a preventive medical board take interest in the prospects of using e-cigarettes as replacement therapy for people addicted to traditional cigarettes. In the mid 2010s e-cigarettes and vapes explode in popularity. Grocery stores, superstores, and even gas stations carry vapes to sell to people over the age of 18.

Vaping offers a chance for companies to create different flavors than the traditional tobacco options. Fruit flavors, candy flavors, and more hit the market and by 2014 vaping’s popularity among teenagers increased rapidly. Small, concealable e-cigarettes like JUUL can be found throughout almost any middle and high school in the US.

What’s At Stake

The e-cigarette timeline contextualizes the wild popularity of vaping with the fact that it’s essentially brand new. Only a few years have passed since it’s reached the levels of widespread use it currently maintains. Not enough time has gone by to understand all of its short-term effects, let alone the effects of long-term use. After the damage caused by cigarettes, medical officials are wary of vaping and many now suggest people stop vaping until we understand what the causes of the recent lung illnesses could be.

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Michael Muldoon

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  • Michael Muldoon earned a B.A. in Media Studies from Penn State University, but instead of shifting into an academic career in social science, he has decided to put his skills to work in the pursuit of helping those struggling with addiction.

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